Comet Lulin is On the Way!

A new comet is swinging around the sun, and soon it will be more visible to stargazers, perhaps even with the naked eye. Both professional and amateur astronomers have been tracking this unusual comet, named Comet Lulin. Thanks to amateur astronomer Gregg Ruppel, who lives in the St. Louis, Missouri area for sharing images he has acquired of Comet Lulin. Gregg took the image above on January 11, 2009. The most interesting characteristic of this comet is its orbit. Lulin is actually moving in the opposite direction as the planets, so its apparent velocity will be quite fast. Estimates are it will be moving about 5 degrees a day across the sky, so when viewed with a telescope or binoculars, you may be able to see the comet’s apparent motion against the background stars. This is quite unusual! Today, January 14, the comet is at perihelion, closest to the sun. As it moves to its closest approach to Earth on February 24, Lulin is expected to brighten to naked-eye visibility in rural areas, (at best about magnitude 5 or 6) and will be observable low in the sky in an east-southeast direction before dawn.

Comet Lulin on January 8, 2009.  Credit:  Gregg Ruppel
Comet Lulin on January 8, 2009. Credit: Gregg Ruppel

The comet will pass 0.41 Astronomical Units from earth at its closest distance to Earth, about 14.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. It has a parabolic trajectory, which means it may have never come this way before –this may be its first visit to the inner solar system

Lulin was jointly discovered by Asian astronomers in July of 2007. Quanzhi Ye from China first saw the comet on images obtained by Chi-Sheng Lin from Taiwan, at the Lu-lin Observatory.

The discovery of Comet Lulin (also known as C/2227 2007 N3) was part of the Lulin Sky Survey project to explore the various populations of small bodies in the solar system, especially objects that could be a hazard to the Earth.

It has both a tail and an anti-tail, visible in this image.

Lulin's Tails.  Credit:  Gregg Ruppel.
Lulin's Tails. Credit: Gregg Ruppel.

Thanks again to Gregg Ruppel for the great images of Comet Lulin. For more information about Lulin, see Gregg’s Astronomy Page, Quanzhi Ye’s page, Lu-lin Observatory, and the Visual Astronomy website. also has a page of Lulin images. . And Aaron Slack has put together a page of links about Comet Lulin on his Caffeinated Astronomy blog. (Love the name of that blog!)

Of course, Lulin isn’t the pseudoscience theory of a 2012 comet.

49 Replies to “Comet Lulin is On the Way!”

  1. the comet thats approaching in 2029 how close will it be to us and will it hit us 7 years later


    I take it you are referring to 99942 Apophis. A few things:

    1) 99942 Apophis is an ASTEROID, not a comet.

    2) We think Apophis will pass within about 30,000 of Earth.

    3) The odds of Apophis hitting us on it’s next pass are slim to none. In order to pose a threat, the asteroid must be deflected during it’s 2029 pass in a VERY specific way.

  3. EDIT: Sorry, forgot the units, LLIDIAZ. We think Apophis will pass within about 30,000 KILOMETERS of Earth.

  4. If Apophis leaves Earth’s vicinity after the the 2029 visit and it is not practically littered with scientific equipment, then we are a lazy and unimaginative species. 30K km is practically slingshot distance.

  5. 10 kms at closest, and both the 2029 comet with apophis and some mayans linving and cooking inside will ride it..

    now please stop the falacies and talk about real things…

    i hope comet lulin make a great show!! cant wait!!

  6. Why is this called Lulin Comet instead of Quanzhi Chi-Sheng Comet? Naming comets after some observatory is unusual to say the least.
    Oddly are not Chinese surnames / given names are instead reversed when compared to Western names? Hence, the comet would be named, “Quanzhi Chi-Sheng Comet”
    Normally, Chinese names are usually three separate characters. If my name was, say, Zhai Ao Ning, my given name is Ning, and my surname is then Zhai. The comet I discovered should therefore be Zhai’s Comet or even as Zhai-Ao Comet ?

    [This is also more confusing, as for example, the discovery of P/2007S1(Zhao) was by Dr. Zhao Haibin is now called “Ziao’s Comet” It was as found at Zijinshan Astronomical Observatory – its fifth one.]

    Other specific questions;

    – By the name, do you mean C/2007N3 Lulin and NOT C/ 2227/N3? (It is probably better to write instead with the syntax as; “C/2007N3 (Lulin)”

    – In addition, if the distance of 0.41 AU, this is roughly the mean distance Mercury is from the Sun, and is further than Venus making its closest approach to the Earth.
    If 0.41 A.U. = 61.336 million kilometres., and the distance between the Earth and Moon is 384,403 kilometres, which is equivalent to 159.,60 or 160 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.
    Do you really mean 0.041 AU instead?
    Being 6.13 million kilometres or 15.95 the 16.0 times the Earth-Sun distance.
    – Lastly, the perihelion distance is 1.21 AU, meaning the comet’s closest approach is outside the Earth’s orbit.
    – There are some claims by various religious prophesy group that this comet might mark the coming of the Antichrist. Go figure?

  7. You are all wrong. Can’t you see that’s the Obamamobile?! newest 2009 “Other end of the solar system” edition, wish I had that!

  8. Morty wrote:

    “You are all wrong. Can’t you see that’s the Obamamobile?! newest 2009 “Other end of the solar system” edition, wish I had that!”

    Morty, the secret Service refer to the new armor -plated limo of President Obama as “The Beast” not the Obamamobile.

    And “The Beast” is a much more fitting name for any comet/asteroid/Apocalyptic Cosmic Destroyer!

  9. you say that comet comes for first time near earth , it means you don’t know anything about it, and what is its deep nature . It comes from an opposite direction that others comets do . Why its has a Halo so regular ? like a circle , and 2 tails instead of one , because i believe that comet’s tails come from solar wind .
    Is it possible that Lulin tourne sur elle-même ?

  10. Yuris,

    “Morty, the secret Service refer to the new armor -plated limo of President Obama as “The Beast” not the Obamamobile.

    And “The Beast” is a much more fitting name for any comet/asteroid/Apocalyptic Cosmic Destroyer!”

    Very interesting that you mention that… considering all the 2012/NWO stuff that is going on… I’m thinking RFID… or the “Mark of the Beast” ???

    Not saying it is what it is, I just find it interestingly coincidental.

  11. I guess the don’t named it as astronomer’s name cause they would like to put the team name, and they are under Lulin observatory… you know how these chineses acts…

    but by the way, what is that anti-tail, everybody knows that nothing could points towards the Sun!

  12. Hey I live in south wales in the UK where would the best place be to see Lulin in south Wales and where in the sky should I be looking??

  13. Trippin me out, forget xanbars, I’m gonna need a xanax buffet! The Beast! Hummmm
    I just put my master bedroom floors down & my mantle up from Katrina this past weekend! So should I go for the no intrest deals on furniture till 2012?

  14. The article begins “A new comet is swinging around the sun”.

    How did they determine its age and what is the criteria for being new?

  15. i’m sure by ‘new’ they meant it was new to us (earth based carbon life form astronomers). not ‘new’ as in ‘hey, i just made this in shop class…it’s a comet’.

  16. yep, actually, comets are older than planets, so, in that perspective, we are new to them.
    And by old, it’s not about the material they are made of. (we are all about the same age in that matter), but regarding formation.

  17. Hi. Can I see the comet here in the caribbean, Puerto Rico? At wath point or reference, north south, west, east, can I located. And the best time to see.
    Thank yuo for sharing.

  18. Hector, the comet will be very difficult to spot even under perfect sky conditions. Take binoculars. From Puerto Rico my guess is the comet rises at about 8 pm. But the best time to look for it is about 2 am, look about two-thirds of the way up from the southern horizon to straight up. It’s in the constellation Virgo moving west (that’s to the right) several degrees each day. Click on the link to see a sky chart.

  19. It’s green because of poisonous cyanogen and diatomic carbon complexes in its atmosphere which absorb at certain wavelengths giving it a greenish color.

  20. Hello all… i really want to c this one….
    will it be visible from india??? and at what time???
    plssss reply!!

  21. Some say it will arrive at 9:00 pm tonight. But it will be most visible at 11:00 pm.
    Happy star gazing!

  22. hahaha, aqui no brasil deu pra ver perfeitamente, ele estava bem próximo e as caudas bastante bonitas, quem não estava aqui no carnaval perdeu, porque foi brilho pra tudo que é lado, inclusive do nosso cometinha lulin aí hahahaha :*

  23. LULIN FOUND: It was difficult to locate until I used the Stellarium Star Seeker program (freeware). Once I identified Saturn – slightly above and to the right – Lulin. I photographed it with a 35mm digital camera and a 400mm lense. Not especially proud of the image, but am very happy I was able to see something we might NEVER see again. Thanks for this cool site!


  24. WELCOME LULIN!!!!!!!!!
    THe first comet I’ll ever see lol, was too busy last times… hope there are no clouds =S

  25. Darn, can find it on the night sky here in puerto rico, Ive seen green meteors,freaky,but not a comet,I was looking forward to it ;-(

  26. hey, i didn’t see it…can someone get it sent around again for me?

    i wanna see it…i gotta see it…i live to see it…plzz, plzzzzz, prettttttty plzzzzzzzzzzzzz!?

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